On Monday, April 25, 2011—the day after the Easter holiday—residents of a 250-unit apartment complex in Connecticut lost their power. Although many areas across the United States affected by natural disasters are challenged every day by the loss of electricity, the small town of East Haven has been quite fortunate to date. It has rarely been subjected to the likes of tornadoes, earthquakes or tsunamis. The area experienced devastating effects from Hurricane Gloria back in 1985 but that was way before personal computers and electrically charged telephones. Battery-operated radios and rotary land phones were still widely used which helped people keep in touch with the current news, emergency agencies and their families.
The electrical outage occurred at 10:15 a.m. and immediately sent residents into a tailspin. Since the majority of residents in this complex are elderly and/or disabled, their panic could be heard in the hallways. Most of the residents don’t own cell phones and their electrically charged land phones were useless. Elevators that transport them through ten floors were stopped and it was not immediately known whether any were occupied. With their electric stoves, microwaves, coffee makers and refrigerators not working—their kitchens were useless. With their televisions, radios and stereo (if they even had a stereo) not working—any source of news or just the daily distraction of Judge Judy was gone.
Seniors who had been doing laundry in the laundry rooms were heard asking one another, “The washer and dryer just stopped! Does this mean I have to put in more money?” They were not happy.
For two hours without lights, cooking, television, radio or telephones, these 250 apartment residents realized how complicated their life had become. They were no longer living in a time where days were spent reading books or cooking on a gas or wood stove, knitting or crocheting while listening to their favorite radio station. These seniors had become hostage to a modern world just like the younger generations.
The positive side to this temporary power outage was that hopefully it made these folks aware of what others in our country are forced to deal with for a lot longer than two hours—days, weeks, months—and maybe it will change their hearts when disasters hit other areas. Donations to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army as well as local food banks and shelters are always needed and appreciated.
By lunchtime on this day, the sound of laundry was heard again, the smells of cooking filled the hallways and Judge Judy was back. A small crisis in a small town that hopefully had a bigger impact on the hearts and minds of its victims.